Kopytko the cobbler was Poland’s most mischievous man. He didn’t just love playing pranks on people, but he was funny to look at too.
Kopytko had enormous ears and when he laughed his ear lobes flapped and wobbled. Some say his ears got so big because his master pulled them whenever Kopytko misbehaved – which was often. Eventually, his ears grew so large, he could store his cobbler’s tools inside them. His hammer, pliers and a spool of thread were all tucked away in there.
One day, Kopytko decided to play a prank on a customer who was famous for always being in a hurry. He gave the man shoes that had heels where the toes should have been. When the man put them on, every time he tried to step forward, he went backward instead. The poor man couldn’t get anywhere and howled with frustration.
This was the final straw for Kopytko’s master and Kopytko lost his job.
Kopytko decided to venture out into the world and find a new master. After a few days of walking and pranking people along the way, he met a duck who was dancing around a field.
“Why are you dancing, duck?” called Kopytko, chortling away.
“It beats laying eggs for the farmer,” said the duck, waddling and dancing.
Kopytko realised the duck was a mischief-maker too. “Why don’t you join me? I’m going on an adventure and we can play pranks together.”
The duck said, “I love pranks! Okay, I’ll join you. My name is Quack.”
So the two rascals set off down the road, making fun of and playing pranks on everyone they passed.
At the edge of a forest, they came across an old man, who was sleeping soundly under a tree.
“I’ll quack in his ear and wake him up!” said Quack.
“No, I have a much better plan,” said Kopytko, smiling. “Let’s take off his shoes, tie the laces together, and throw them over that big branch above him. He’ll be so confused!”
So that’s what they did, and then they hid behind the tree and waited.
When the old man woke up, he was sad to see his shoes were missing, and puzzled to find them dangling from the branch above his head.
He jumped up to grab them but, as he did so, Kopytko pulled a string so the shoes moved out of his reach. When the old man gave up, Kopytko released the string and the shoes dangled down again. Every time the old man jumped, Kopytko pulled the string. This went on for some time.
At last, the old man was so frustrated and his feet were so cold, he fell to the ground and began to sob. Tears streamed down his face.
“Quack, what is happening to the old man’s eyes?” asked Kopytko.
“I don’t know,” said Quack. “It looks like they’re leaking.”
Kopytko and Quack came out of their hiding place. “What is wrong with you, old man?” asked Kopytko.
“My shoes!” cried the man. “They keep running away from me.”
“I’ll get your shoes for you if you can tell me what is coming from your eyes,” said Kopytko.
“They’re tears!” said the old man.
“What are tears?” asked Kopytko.
The old man was speechless for a second. “Haven’t you ever cried?”
“I don’t know how to,” admitted Kopytko. “But I’m good at laughing. Perhaps I can make you do that.”
Kopytko and Quack hurried behind the tree, untied the string and the old man’s shoes fell down. However, when they returned, he wasn’t laughing.
“So you took my boots,” he said, looking sad. “Why did you do that?”
“We were playing a prank,” Kopytko explained. “It made us laugh.”
“But you made me cry,” said the old man, wiping a tear from his cheek.
Kopytko and Quack suddenly felt very guilty and sad too.
“Come here,” said the old man.
“No,” said Kopytko. “You’re going to pull my ears.”
“I promise I won’t,” said the old man.
Kopytko stepped forward nervously and the old man hugged him. “I forgive you, but please promise me you won’t play pranks that upset people.”
Kopytko felt tears prick his eyes for the first time. “But I thought if it made me laugh, it would make other people happy too. We’re sorry.”
“That’s okay. I am sure you can both think of ways to make people happy without being so mean.”
Kopytko and Quack thanked the old man and went on their way. As they walked, Kopytko started to skip and his ears wobbled around, and Quack performed his silly dance. They passed a farmer who found them both so funny he had to hold his belly as he was laughing so much. Kopytko and Quack went from town to town like this, performing their funny act and cheering up everyone they met. They didn’t play a single prank.
Soon they became famous throughout the land for making people happy. In fact, they became so famous, the king made them both knights and they got their very own coat of arms! From that day, the only tears they ever saw were tears of laughter.